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Religious leaders like Artur Pawlowski who question health restrictions related to COVID-19 are a “threat to public safety”. Or so the criticism goes.
After giving a sermon in February 2022 in Coutts, Alta., in which he urged truck convoy protesters to “stay the course” in their efforts to protect freedoms, Pastor Pawlowski was arrested, denied release. released on bail and imprisoned for 40 days until the decision is reached unanimously. overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal in July.
According to the 2021 Global Watchlist compiled by advocacy group Open Doors, there were two significant trends in persecution in 2020: the number of Christians killed increased by 60% and governments used Restrictions related to COVID-19 as an excuse for religious persecution.
Facial recognition systems, for example, have been installed in state-approved churches in China, allowing worshipers to be tracked and punished, and India’s nationalist Janata Party has encouraged the persecution of Christians by sanctioning extremism. Hindu. In Canadaa country that was once a haven for the persecuted, pastors are condemned and imprisoned for holding religious services, and religion itself is slandered in the COVID narrative, coupled with poor research, misinformation and politics of right.
Our treatment of religious people appears to be Orwell non-fiction totalitarian State, Oceania, in which atheism is obligatory and religious belief is a crime (one of the crimes of which the hero of “1984”, Winston Smith, confesses).
In Orwell’s superstate, atheism is not only essential to the absolute power of the “Party”, but it is irresistible. According to Orwell’s dystopian fantasy, human life is meaningless because individuals will always die; but by joining the Party, they become part of something more lasting than themselves. Totalitarianism – I use this word intentionally – offers a means of saving oneself from the threat of absolute non-existence..
In any totalitarian state (including the one we are heading towards), citizens are divided and polarized. There are believers and unbelievers, members and aberrants, the elect and sinners. The followers believe above all in the capacity of the State to realize a kind of utopia. They follow state orders, not because of their evidentiary reasonableness, but because their commitment to the project requires unconditional allegiance. Sinners are heretics who stand in the way of security and purity. What appeal do reason, freedom and autonomy have in the face of effortless and guaranteed immortality?
Today, many people are turning away from personal religion towards state-run science, which is presented as more sophisticated and more aligned with truth. But totalitarianism is not an alternative to religion; it is a secularized religion, as Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt has written, and its appeal is spreading across the world at a staggering rate.
Totalitarianism replaces personal religion with the idea that we can find meaning not in God but in ourselves, in a group of human beings. “The state takes the place of God”, wrote Carl Jung, “socialist dictatorships are religions and state slavery is a form of worship”. The Oceania Party slogan, “freedom is slavery,” could easily be the slogan of the ruling party in Canada today. (And dare I mention the sign above the gate of Auschwitz “Arbeit Macht Frei” [“Work Makes One Free”]?)
In the totalitarian state, the methods of religious enthusiasm and evangelism are deployed to convince the masses that the dream of a perfectly pure and progressive state – a paradise on earth – justifies any limitation of personal freedom. Thus, the punishment of dissenters – via warrants, surveillance, imprisonment and perhaps even extermination of individuals or groups – is seen as acceptable, even noble.
To ensure continued allegiance to a totalitarian regime, citizens are kept in a continuous cycle of fear, worn down by the ever-present threat of loss of income, education, food, fuel, housing and mobility, and the fear of being and dying alone. These fears are solidified by visible propaganda — graphics of hospitalizations and death tolls, masking signs at the entrances to businesses, vaccine “stickers” on social media and other virtual badges of honor, and the recitation continues. mantras like “we’re all in this together”. and “everything we do is to protect your health and safety”.
Advice from our leaders is presented as the only way to stay safe. But let’s not forget that blind allegiance to those who abuse us is a survival strategy for the abused, not a rational life plan. The harsh lesson of Stockholm Syndrome is that abusers can become saviors in the eyes of the abused; they become a haven of peace, a way out, the only noticeable output.
Religious people today are a threat, but not to public safety as the story tells us. They are a threat to the idea that the state should be worshiped above all else, to the religion that tries to take their place, to the idea that it is possible to find compelling and complete meaning outside of religion. ‘State.
They are not persecuted for what they believe, but for what they don’t to believe.
As Artur Pawlowski’s son Nathaniel said of the police waiting outside their house to arrest his father:
“It has nothing to do with the law, …. He embarrassed them globally. He exposed their corruption. People are waking up. He has a powerful voice. They are afraid of this voice, so they want to keep him in jail now as a punishment.
Should we care about the persecution of Christians if we ourselves are not religious?
When self-proclaimed atheist blogger Tim Urban was interviewed by Bari Weiss about something he changed his mind about in 2021, he said:
“I’ve spent most of my life thinking ‘the more atheists the better.’ In hindsight, it now looks like a “be careful what you wish for” hope. It’s easy for non-religious people to look down on religion, but we take for granted how good a good society is because of the moral structure it provides.
Protecting religious leaders like Artur Pawlowski isn’t just about protecting religion in itself; it is about protecting the foundations of a free society in which individuals can find their own sources of meaning outside the state.
Freedom of religion (and of conscience, thought and belief) is closely linked to the way we envision and create life in all its essential dimensions: family, education, spirituality, relationships, dignity and independence of persons from their role as citizens. . We are people first and citizens second. We can make ourselves fit for citizenship, but we should not let the requirements of citizenship dictate who we are as people.
Religion is a fundamental Charter right (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2a), but the Canada we are creating is one in which religious people must make an irreconcilable moral choice: to be a good citizen and betray themselves, or be true to yourself and face the political consequences.
I leave you with these words, which are solidly Canadian, perhaps inspiring, and worth quoting at length:
“…the history of this country is one in which we constantly challenge ourselves and each other to expand our personal definitions of what a Canadian is. This is a good and important thing. It’s good for us, good for our country and important for the world. … We understand that people are defined by both the things that unite us and set us apart: languages, cultures, beliefs. Even, above all, gender and sexual orientation. However, we also know that all these elements contribute to a person’s identity, but do not define it. All of these things find their highest and most concrete expression in the individual human beings who embody them. This too is a good thing. It gives people room to live and breathe.
“It gives people room to live and breathe.”
These are not my words. These are the words of our own Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose 2015 self seems irreconcilable with the person who declared just months ago that burning churches is “understandable” and that evangelical Christians are the worst part of society.
Religious Canadians lose this coin “to live and breathe”. In fact, they are muffled. The question is, how are we going to respond? Are we going to act as free people or as unconscious slaves? And what is the true cost of our conversion to state worship?
Republished from period time